Read the following passages and answer the questions based on each.
In his book "About Behaviourism", Dr. B.F. Skinner, the noted behavioural psychiatrist, lists the $20$ most salient objections to behaviourism and goes on to answer them. He has answers and explanations for every one. For instance, to those who object that behaviourism “neglects innate endowment and argues that all behaviour is acquired during the lifetime of the individual,” Dr. Skinner expresses puzzlement. Granted, “a few behaviourists in their enthusiasm for what may be done through the environment, have minimised or even denied genetic contribution. But others have no doubt acted as if a genetic endowment were unimportant. Few would actually contend that behaviour is endlessly malleable.” And Dr. Skinner himself, sounding as often as not like some latter-day social Darwinist, gives as much weight to the ‘contingencies of survival’ in the evolution of the human species as to the ‘contingencies of reinforcement’ in the lifetime of the individual. Dr Skinner is a radical behaviourist. Radical behaviourism does not deny the possibility of self-observation or self-knowledge.
To those who claim that behaviourism "Cannot explain Creative achievements - in arts, in music, literature, science or mathematics," Dr. Skinner provides an intriguing ellipsis. "Contingencies of reinforcement also resemble contingencies of survival in the production of novelty. In both natural selection and operand conditions, the appearance of mutations is crucial. Until recently, species evolved because of random changes in genes or chromosomes, but the geneticist may arrange conditions under which mutations are particularly likely to occur. We can discover some of the sources of the new forms of behaviour which undergo selection by prevailing contingencies or reinforcement, and fortunately, the creative artist or thinker has other ways of introducing novelties."
Dr. Skinner’s answers to the $20$ questions he poses — questions that range all the way from investigating that behaviourism fails ‘to account for cognitive processes’ to wondering if behaviourism ‘is indifferent to the warmth and richness of human life, and is incompatible with the enjoyment of art, music .and with love for one’s fellow men,’ But will it wash? Will it serve to serve those critics who have characterised Skinner variously as a mad, manipulative doctor, as a native nineteenth-century positivist, as an unscientific technician, an arrogant social engineer? There is no gainsaying that ‘About Behaviourism’ is an unusually compact summing up of both the history and ‘the philosophy of the science of human behaviour’ (as Dr. Skinner insists on defining behaviourism). It is a veritable artwork of organisation. And anyone who reads it will never again be able to think of behaviourism as simplistic philosophy that reduces human-being to black boxes responding robotlike to external stimuli.
Still, there are certain quandaries that the book does not quite dispel. For one thing, though Dr Skinner makes countless references to the advances in experiments with human beings that behaviourism has made since it first began running rats through mazes six or seven decades go, he fails to provide a single illustration of these advances. And though it may be true, as Dr Skinner argues that one can extrapolate from pigeons to people, it would be reassuring to be shown precisely how. More important, he has not satisfactorily rebutted the basic criticism that behaviourism “is scientistic rather than scientific; it merely emulates the sciences.’ A true science doesn’t predict in advance what it will accomplish when it is firmly established as a science, not even when it is posing as ‘the philosophy of that science.’ A true science simply advances rules for testing hypothesis. But Dr Skinner predicts that behaviourism will produce the means to save human society from impending disaster. Two key concepts that keep according to that prediction are ‘manipulation’, and ‘control’. And so while he reassures us quite persuasively that science would practise those concepts benignly, one can’t shake off the suspicion that he was advancing a science just in order to save society by means of ‘manipulation’ and ‘control’, and that is not so reassuring.
The author advocates the view that:
- a behavioural pattern is set up during the lifetime of an individual
- there are too many chance occurrences in the lifetime of individual
- environmental factors count much in the behaviour of human-being
- there is an absence of genetic contribution in the science of behaviourism.